Review: The Great Wall

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DIR: Tadhg O’Sullivan

 

Tadhg O’Sullivan’s interpretation of life within the migrant camps around Europe is both visually stunning and extremely relevant.

The film delves deep into the many problems that those living within these huge foreboding walls and camps face. Poverty runs rife, and the depiction of a young mother with her entire family living in one squalid room is one of the most poignant moments of this film. It is a first hand, honest look at what these people go through on a daily basis.

Throughout, O’Sullivan chooses to have no dialogue, just narration over extremely contrasting images of high rises, and beautiful cities and then back to the camps and their inhabitants. This highlights the widening gap between rich and poor. It brings to the fore the question “How can there be so much wealth and so much poverty within the same countries?”

In certain points, it seems as if these Walls are personified; they have a personality and it is that of control and power. The people within must surrender to these all-powerful constructions.

We are shown that life within these Walls can be so horrendous, that some prefer to live as outcasts, in old outposts. The squalid conditions appear to be equally devastating, but overcrowding is not so much of a problem. But again, there is no living, merely existing. The quality of life is minimal.

Despite the hardships of these people, there seems to be a strong sense of community, and children are always smiling. One may think that this is perhaps because of the presence of the camera, or perhaps they are so used to it that this way of life is merely normal to them. Either way, The Great Wall highlights the resilience of children, despite their surroundings.

Perhaps giving some of the characters a voice may have emphasised their plight, but in a way it was an excellent move to leave them voiceless. Because this is what they are; caught up in a situation that is the stuff of nightmares, completely displaced from all that they know, and with little or no hope for the future, and without a say or any control over their own lives.

This visually stunning and thought provoking look at how the other half live is in parts guided by Kafka’s short story The Great Wall. This compliments the many visions of despair and loneliness perfectly, and adds a sort of emotion that may have been lacking without.

There are constantly news stories about migrants and refugees but this gives a deeper understanding of what it is like within these walls that now are so rampant.

A must for anyone with an interest in human rights and current affairs, and film lovers alike, The Great Wall is unlike anything I have seen in recent memory.

Katie Kelly

74 minutes

The Great Wall is released 21st August 2015

 

 

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Review: The Diary of a Teenage Girl

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DIR/WRI: Marielle Heller • PRO: Miranda Bailey, Anne Carey, Bert Hamelinck, Madeline Shapiro • ED: Marie- Hélène Dozo, Koen Timmerman• CAST: Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, Kristen Wiig, Christoper Meloni

 

The Diary of a Teenage Girl takes an extremely candid and explicit look at the life of fifteen year old Minnie and her escapades in San Francisco during the Seventies.

Based on the graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner it unashamedly delves deep into the psyche of Minnie(Bel Powley), the young protagonist who thinks she knows it all.

Minnie (rather stupidly) decides to keep a diary, but records it on a tape. Here, she reveals all of her deepest secrets, and misdemeanours. Her naivety is often shrouded by a sort of confidence that is derived from her insecurities. She, like most of us at fifteen, thinks she knows everything about life. This leads her down the path that the film focuses on – finding herself, through sex, and then losing herself, once again through sex.

All throughout the film I felt marginally uncomfortable; after all in our modern society a fifteen-year-old girl is very much deemed to still be a child. But in seventies San Fran, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Minnie and best friend Kimmie (Madeline Waters) spend their nights, and indeed days hopping from bars to clubs and men to women. It altogether is a case of little girls playing grown-ups, dressing and acting like they are ten years their senior.

But this play-acting actually seems to work, and Minnie is successful in living a life years older than her age. She wants to have control of her life, and decides to begin an illicit affair with her mother Charlotte’s (Kristen Wig) boyfriend Monroe. There are times where he is taking advantage of her youth. But, then there are other occasions where despite her youth, Minnie appears to be in total control. She brags about her escapades, and feels very little guilt about her wrong doings. This is a mixture of naivety and arrogance that Powley plays brilliantly. I was quite relieved, however, to discover that the actress is 23, and nowhere near as young as Minnie.

Her mother, Charlotte is somewhat a victim of the sixties. Left behind from the counterculture, and lost in her thirties, she seems almost jealous of Minnie. The pair share a relationship more akin to sisters, or friends. This is perhaps why the affair with Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård) begins. The lines between relationships and ages are blurred. Minnie thinks and acts as though she is older, and Monroe acts as if he is still a teenager himself.

Whilst there are constant undertones of wrong-doing on the part of the older men Minnie liaises with, for the most part, she uses her age to her advantage. Manipulating and seducing Monroe in every way possible, she is very aware of her own sexuality, even at a very young age. This is connected to her mother’s hedonistic, partying life-style. We frequently see Minnie and her mother’s friends partying and taking drugs together – they treat her as a counterpart, as opposed to a child.

The use of Gloeckner’s animation in The Diary of a Teenage Girl help delve deeper into the depraved psyche of an emotional yet highly talented teenager. Minnie‘s mind never ceases, it is always thinking and contemplating. The animated versions of her thoughts are insights into her mind and the often explicit drawings also help to portray Minnie in a different light – she has an incredible raw talent, which she uses to express herself through art.

The real surprise of this film was Kirtsten Wiig’s performance. Taking a well needed step away from comedy, she proves her ability to act diversely, and plays the role of Charlotte believably and honestly. She is selfish, but needy. She, like Minnie, has grown up too fast and now she seems lost, with a heavy reliance on alcohol. Monroe seems to be just another bad choice for her. She consistently encourages Minnie to grow up and to use her to use her sexuality to get what she wants, and naturally Minnie, being naive but highly intelligent, does so.

This film evokes numerous emotions. It made my life at fifteen seem very boring! But more importantly, it emphasises just how different culturally and socially the seventies in San Francisco are to now. If it were set today, Monroe would almost certainly be accused of statutory rape. But as with Led Zeppelin, and the many bands of the day, it was almost deemed acceptable for teenage girls to throw themselves at middle aged men. It is hard to comprehend how this is so. It is not a film about abuse, it looks at teenage sexuality in an unusual way, from a different perspective that we are not used to. Despite it seeming wrong, it is her choice and she is not forced into anything.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl is totally unique. It is honest as well as over the top but in a way that works well to portray the erratic and self-absorbed mind of an eccentric teenage girl.

Katie Kelly

18 (See IFCO for details)
101 minutes

The Diary of a Teenage Girl  is released 7th August 2015

The Diary of a Teenage Girl – Official Website

 

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Review: Eden

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DIR: Mia Hansen-Løve • WRI: Mia Hansen-Løve, Sven Hansen-Løve• PRO: Patrick Andre, Nathalie Dennes, Charles Gillibert, Jimmy Price • ED: Marion Monnier • CAST: Félix de Givry, Pauline Etienne, Vincent Macaigne, Hugo Conzelmann, Roman Kolinka

 

At first glance, this film almost appears to be a French, slightly more pretentious version of Justin Kerrigan’s 1999 iconic Human Traffic. It too is the story of a group of young people, looking for fame, drugs, fun and love with all the usual nuances and issues that hedonistic youths possess.

However, the similarities end there. Eden is a definitive examination of the underground dance music scene in Paris from the early nineties right up to present day. It portrays the true life story of main character Paul Valleè (Félix de Givry) his friends, and his many, many lovers. Simultaneously, director Mia Hansen-Løve maps the journey of electronic music. From the nineties’ raw, original beats in warehouses to present day, with its commercialised, non-descript DJs playing in grandiose nightclubs, Eden depicts how the entire ethos of electronica has transformed.

This rise and fall of house music coincides with the turbulent private life of Valleè. He is a struggling DJ, as part of house/garage duo Cheers. Throughout the film there is a sense that this pair of incredibly talented DJs and producers seem to keep missing their big break. This is caused by a mixture of bad timing, drugs and ego. Their counterparts Daft Punk start off in a similar position. Both collectives appear to be on a par creatively, but Daft Punk rise above the underground, and become mainstream and one of the most highly successful electronic acts ever. So there are pangs of pity, but this is overcome by feelings of anger towards some of the characters, as they seem to destroy themselves.

For the most part, Eden is quite predictable, and definitely geared towards those with an interest in electronic music. However, Valleè and his friend’s characters are authentic and believable. As the film is based on a true story, it is quite easy to relate to them. For instance, pretentious tragic artist Cyril (Roman Kolinka) and clingy-at-first girlfriend Louise (Pauline Etienne) are two of the most distinctively relatable of the bunch. Their chaotic lives filled with highs and lows are not only synonymous with the nineties, but indeed any era for those who love to party, and who appreciate electronica.

The focus of the film is almost entirely on Vallèe, which inevitably means delving into his own private life. Perhaps if it focussed less on his womanising, drug use and selfishness, and more on his music (which was fantastic) it would have been slightly more enjoyable. He is at times, extremely dislikeable, which surprisingly doesn’t take away from his talent. This is true of many talented people, and his ego almost certainly is the cause of his downfall.

The fantastic soundtrack, and occasional laugh are the two best aspects of this film. For anyone who enjoys nineties electronica (mainly house) and hates what it has become, this is a must see. It is also an insight into the French take on the nineties. The stark contrast between then and now left me feeling nostalgic, and jealous that I wasn’t there. I searched for the soundtrack straight away and was delighted to discover it contains some extremely famous tracks, but also some that may have gone un-noticed before. And then throw in some classics from over twenty years ago, and you have yourself a perfect soundtrack.

I left this film feeling quite energised. But this was 90% to do with the music. I cannot emphasise this enough. Go and see Eden if you want to take a trip (excuse the pun) down memory lane, but expect the expected and don’t count on anything out of the ordinary from the film itself.

Katie Kelly

 

15A (See IFCO for details)
130 minutes

Eden is released 24th July 2015

Eden – Official Website

 

 

 

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Review: Love & Mercy

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DIR: Bill Pohlad • WRI:Oren Moverman, Michael Lerner • PRO: Jim Lefkowitz, Oren Moverman, Bill Pohlad, Clarie Rudnick Polstein, Ann Ruark, John Wells • DOP: Robert D. Yeoman  • ED: Dino Jonsäter • MUS: Atticus Ross  • CAST: Elizabeth Banks, John Cusack, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Dee Wallace

 

Bill Pohlad’s biography of Beach Boy Brian Wilson delivers an on-point, touching and insightful portrayal of his life both personally and professionally.

The fact that the film is set both in the sixties and the eighties is enlightening. Wilson’s struggles with his mental health erupt around the time of seminal album Pet Sounds in the sixties, and by the eighties he has reached the depths of his psychosis.

A young Wilson, played by Paul Dano, is a clearly fraught, yet brilliant musician. He is struggling to overcome many obstacles, including unwilling band members, and an extremely unsupportive father. His intrepid musical ability is before his time, and some believe it to be too risky. This frustrates Wilson, and frustration is a key theme throughout this film. He is frustrated by his illness, his father and his music – and both Cusack and Dano capture this frustration perfectly.

It is clear that Wilson’s genius is somewhat spurred on by the on-going voices and noises in his head. These voices and noises seem to inspire him, and are the inspiration for much of the Beach Boys unique sound. Several scenes in the studio give an extremely authentic feel to the film, and parts feel quite documentary-like. For music fans, it is an insight into how some of the best sounds of the sixties developed.

As Wilson ages, John Cusack takes over the role. From here, it is evident that the illness has now dominated much of his personality, and changed him completely. There is hardly any lucidity left.

For this reason, using another actor to play an older, sicker Wilson was an excellent move. Had Pohlad used just one actor, his descent into madness would not have been as remarkable. John Cusack plays the aging rocker with a finesse and believability that hone in on the extent of his demise since the swinging sixties.

Similar to the sixties there is a constant barrage of people surrounding Wilson. Be it his manipulative Doctor (Giamatti) or his entourage, it seems that no matter what decade, there are always people telling him what to do and making decisions for him.

There are also some extreme highs in the movie, and it is not all incredibly depressing. A beautiful relationship develops between Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) and elements of this are quite sweet. This, blended with scenes that are extremely difficult to watch like Wilson in the depths of a sedative state, and in the grips of mental breakdowns, combine perfectly to leave viewers with a definitive view of his turbulent life.

Love and Mercy depicts the irony that was The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson impeccably. The music they created in the sixties was uplifting and vibrant. It was for dancing and surfing (even though they couldn’t surf…). But behind that unique sound that defined a generation was a man struggling with paranoid schizophrenia and slipping deeper into a psychosis, made only worse by the lifestyle and drugs of the time.

Sixties Wilson uses his music to express himself, and to appease the voices in his head, but it is not without its cost to his personal life, which is revealed by Cusack.

Both Cusack and Dano play the part of Wilson in their own different ways. Both actors capture his child-like innocence, and combine it with the very dark side of his illness. These contrasts work well to depict the life and loves of an artist whose music has been enjoyed for over fifty years, and no doubt will continue to be enjoyed for many more generations to come.

The fantastic soundtrack, exceptional writing, and of course true story mean that Love & Mercy is not just for fans of The Beach Boys, but for fans of music in general, particularly those with a penchant for a troubled genius.

Katie Kelly

 

12A (See IFCO for details)
121 minutes
 
Love & Mercy is released 10th July 2015
 
Love & Mercy– Official Website

 

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Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

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Katie Kelly finds nirvana in Brett Morgan’s documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, which screened as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

 

There has been a plethora of documentaries relating Kurt Cobain over the past twenty years. Unlike Nick Broomfield’s Kurt and Courtney, or Michael Azzerad’s Been a Son, Montgae of Heck is 100% authorised by Cobain’s now nineteen-year-old daughter, Frances. This is personal, and 100% agenda-less. There is no finger pointing, no blame; just pure, unadulterated Kurt Cobain from start to finish.

The documentary features interviews with various family members. Kurt’s mother’s [Wendy] honesty is admirable. She delivers a frank and sincere account of Kurt’s childhood. Growing up in Aberdeen in Washington, Kurt’s childhood went from almost idyllic to relatively fragmented and chaotic in a short space of time. Mostly unseen home videos of the blonde, blue-eyed toddler Kurt accompany his mother’s sentimental musings.

A real surprise was Donald Cobain, Kurt’s father who is notoriously un-emotional. Cobain himself famously sang about him in Serve the Servants, “I tried hard to have a father, Instead I had a dad.”

Donald Cobain also talks about Kurt’s childhood and adolescence. He is joined by his wife, and Kurt’s stepmother, Jenny Cobain. In a rare glimpse of emotion Donald becomes upset. He allows his wife to answer more of the difficult questions, obviously unable to maintain composure. Cobain is clearly unaccustomed to the cameras, and, unlike Wendy, struggles with his answers. His interview makes this documentary stand out from the crowd. Raw and unbridled, there is no doubt that this man was just as devastated by his son’s demise as anyone else, despite all the negative publicity.

Hisko Hustling’s animation brings adolescent Kurt alive to the sound of old audio recordings and diary excerpts. The sometimes disturbing sequences perfectly capture what it was like to experience the total isolation of being one of the weird ones in this relatively backwards town. Not only does the animation invigorate, but it literally brings to life some of Cobain’s many drawings and artwork from his journals. It is as if he was drawing live, on screen – a truly unique touch.

The inclusion of live, behind-the-scenes footage of the band on tour is an excellent balancing act with the interviews. Here, Nirvana are Nirvana. We have goofy Dave Grohl, sarcastic Novoselic, and a contemplative Kurt Cobain, launching themselves at drum kits, laughing, and behaving the way a young band on tour do. Kurt at the beginning of Nirvana and Kurt by the end seem like two different people. In such a short time, the toll of life on the road, coupled with drugs, the stress of being famous had broken the star.

Like Donald Cobain, bass player Novoselic remains quite sombre and contemplative throughout his interviews. He appears to find it quite difficult to talk openly about his former band-mate. Clearly some wounds never heal, and this is in stark contrast to the Novoselic on tour in 1990. Perhaps there may be a certain sense of guilt, or just outright despair. The same can be said of Tracy Marander, Cobain’s first serious girlfriend. She has been dubbed the ‘Godmother of Nirvana’. When Kurt lived with her, she provided for him and allowed him to practice music, make art and not go out to work. It was during this time that Kurt wrote many of the songs on their debut album Bleach.

Marander vehemently denies any knowledge of Cobain’s drug use when they were together. She has appeared in various other documentaries about the singer, and has remained entirely positive about him, even his major downfalls.

No Kurt documentary would be complete without Courtney Love’s crass and overbearing opinion. As usual it’s the Courtney way or the highway. Her answers to questions seem fairly contrived and long-winded, sometimes straying from the point. But the inclusion of many home videos of her, Kurt and Frances as a baby are probably the best thing about this documentary.

These never-before-seen crude home videos show what life was like at home with the Cobains – their highs and lows… literally in some cases. Kurt is clearly on drugs in some, slurring his words, and barely remaining conscious. There are also many truly touching aspects of the young couple, fussing over their new daughter, and behaving like a normal, young, family.

Montage of Heck is a must for Nirvana-lovers, and documentary-lovers alike. In true HBO style, it is gripping without being over-bearing. Just like Cobain’s life, the film ends abruptly. Unlike many documentaries, books and TV shows, this was entirely focussed on his life, and not his death. The only thing that would have improved it would have been the inclusion of Dave Grohl. But the interviews, home movies, animation, and live performance mix together perfectly to provide one of the most honest, and unbiased documentaries of recent years. A credit to executive-producer Frances Bean Cobain.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOacVhXAmX0

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